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Sunday, October 31, 2010
Wrap-up: Buccaneers 38, Cardinals 35

By Pat Yasinskas

Wrapping up Tampa Bay's 38-35 win over Arizona.

What it means: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are for real. Yeah, Arizona’s not an elite team, but the Cardinals aren’t terrible. When you’re able to travel across the country and win a tough game, that says you’re a legitimate playoff contender. At 5-2, the Bucs are halfway to finishing what Raheem Morris likes to call “The Race to 10’’ wins. The running joke used to be that the Bucs might have a shot if they won all their preseason games and included them in the count. Now, 10 wins seem very possible.

Captain comeback: Josh Freeman engineered the sixth fourth-quarter comeback win of his career. Keep in mind, it was right about this time last year that Freeman took over as the starter. This one should have had to be a comeback as the Bucs squandered a big lead. But it seems like Freeman’s at his best when the Bucs fall behind.

Heroes: Linebacker Geno Hayes and cornerback Aqib Talib. Each of these two defenders had interceptions that they returned for touchdowns. Talib also had a late-game interception that helped seal the game for the Bucs.

Unsung hero: LeGarrette Blount. The undrafted rookie has given the Bucs a legitimate threat in the running game. The Bucs had been easing Blount into the lineup, but he now has earned a bigger role than Cadillac Williams. Blount’s emergence means the Bucs now have some balance in the offense and Freeman doesn’t have to carry the team.

Stepping up: Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, a fourth-round choice, has been playing well and drawing attention all season. Fellow rookie Arrelious Benn, a second-round choice, got off to a very slow start. But Benn surfaced Sunday, grabbing a 53-yard pass from Freeman.

What’s next: A battle for first place in the NFC South. The Bucs travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons next week.